sun 16/06/2024

Football's Suicide Secret, BBC Three | reviews, news & interviews

Football's Suicide Secret, BBC Three

Football's Suicide Secret, BBC Three

A poignant and effective documentary about the darker side of professional football

Clarke Carlisle researches depression in the context of his own illness and final footballing season

Last year I spent the summer reading A Life Too Short, a biography of former German national goalkeeper Robert Enke by his friend, the sports journalist Ronald Reng. It’s an incredibly emotive book that uses Enke's diary entries to tell the story of his playing career, his family life, his depression and, ultimately, his suicide in 2009 at the age of 32.

It seems that although no end of campaigns try to break down the stigma of depression, or trot out statistics that one in four of us will ultimately suffer from it, in the end it’s usually the sufferers themselves left asking why something more isn’t being done.

Although pegged to the suicide in 2011 of Gary Speed (pictured below right), at the time the manager of the Welsh national side, whose death continues to feel recent, and shocking - the focus of Football’s Suicide Secret was presenter Clarke Carlisle, chair of the Professional Footballers’ Association (PFA) and recently-retired captain of Northampton Town. It was part documentary and part autobiography, telling the story of Carlisle’s final season before retirement - a season which, like much of his playing career, was marked by periodic bouts of depression.

Gary SpeedThe challenge Carlisle had right from the start was to show that depression, just like a physical illness, can strike even those who have found their “dream jobs and adulation”. He should know: at the age of 21, just as his team Queens Park Rangers was promoted to the Premier League, he attempted suicide on a park bench with the help of “handfuls of pills”. Anybody who has dealt with a depressive illness has had to deal with comments like “pull yourself together” and “what have you got to be depressed about”: Carlisle was pragmatic about these, calling for better education.

Unlike similar documentaries and articles, Football’s Suicide Secret didn’t look at depression as an Everyman disease - which is probably the best approach, given the recently-reported disproportionate rise in the number of young male suicides. While it may not always be helpful to view depression as something triggered by circumstances, there is no doubt that a footballer’s career cycle contains plenty of triggers. Carlisle investigated the effect of that first rejection, with a visit to an academy full of young players who hadn't begun to consider that they might not hit the big time; of the injuries and defeats that can drag down a player; and of what awaits after retirement.

Gary Speed, who appeared on BBC Sport full of smiles on the morning of his death, remains the elephant in the room if depression is truly a response to circumstance. A first public interview with Speed’s sister, Lesley, was as enlightening as it was tear-jerking on that score: she would never have said that her brother was coping with mental illness, she said, but now that she knows more about the condition she knows that depressives are not just fighting an illness but dealing with the stigma that comes with it. A short interview with Carlisle’s manager at Northampton, Aidy Boothroyd, who tried to protect his player by telling the team and the press that he was suffering from 'flu when depression forced him to miss work, was equally enlightening.

There is no doubt that a footballer’s career cycle contains plenty of triggers


Editor Rating: 
Average: 4 (1 vote)

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Clarke Carlisle Thank you so much for bringing this subject in the open this is not a weakness but makes you stronger and I wish you all the luck in the future. I would like to see the FA Chairman to give more time and funding supporting this in the future, also PFA LFE. I am a parent of a young player who was released from Carlisle, Bolton and is now at Fleetwood the stress of a parent when your young son is away from home doing this sport for his future is so difficult and I can only describe the life as being a up market gypsy life style, your comments about how a club makes you into their property is very correct. Also when having a bad game how it impacts on the person very strongley and the surrounding family. I think my son is strong and will fight back but more support would be so much more appreciated. Thanks to all who supported you making this programme.

I have to say BBC3 has got it locked down with their Mental Health season. I have watched and will contuine to watch all the programs related to this subject. The programs are of the highest quality. Showing you the struggle from youths to those in the public eye who right now are dealing with their own, serious mental health issues. I admire and respect those coming forward to talk openly about their own experiences. With over 2 and half million youths, in the uk suffering with their mental health. With the rise in young male suicide, this being one of the hardest groups to reach out to, in my experience. In the documentary's, those involved clearly state more needs to be done in this field. While programs like this do help to reduce stigma, exspecialy with respect to those in the public eye because through them we can highlight even more the missing pieces that need to be put in place, with respect to mental health. Clarke Carlisle makes it clear that the first point of contact is essential. I myself have bipolar and have been hiding it well for years for fear of judgement. I was even told by a doctor "the thing with you is that you don't look like there is anything wrong with you". The Shame I felt for many years. My whole life completly change. Sadly this year a friend committed suicide, at the age of 32, because she could not live with bipolar and what it did to her. There was no first point of contact. A younge male 21 felt he had nothing left to live for tried to commit suicide but thankfully got to hosptial in time. He told me the next day how he was feeling and it hurt me to know the darkness he felt. Its time I think for things to change because if they don't more and more people will contuine to suffer in silence. I know there are alot of mental health support groups and so on out there and they do a great job. I just feel we need to create something new. A frist point of contact, where the person you speak to will know what you are going through, because they to have mental health issues. They will be knowledgable about the problems being face. They will have facts about mental health. More importantly they will be compassionate and understanding. A mental health, program can also be created where we can teach about the importantace of taking care of your mental health. The emotional and social issued faced by all need to be addressed so that the wellbeing of the mind is cared for. I am a volunteer and have supported many people who like me may be disadvantaged in some way. I do not want to see these programs ended and then forgot about as does happen. We need to contuine the good work being done. I would like to be that frist point of contact I am hoping at some point to create that link that is missing in mental Health. I have accepted and learned to live with my bipolar it has taken over 9 years for me to do this, but it is now a part of the person I am today. You can learn to live with mental health conditions and have a quality of life.

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